A note from MDW

DISCLAIMER: No children, either real or virtual, were harmed in the making of this episode.

With my robotic (not really, more like an electrical puppet) body lying face-first on the floor, I stopped to think. I also reabsorbed the faux latex skin. It wouldn't survive the first combat and I didn't want to spend the resources to fix it. Otherwise, everything was fine. A fall like this wouldn't damage Josselyn too much. The repairs were less than the resources recovered from the latex.

I didn't have enough materials to make another Josselyn. Without a Dungeon, I was limited to what I could absorb from the environment to replenish my Dungeon Mana. Substance was less of an issue, I could eat the whole building if I had to.

I moved the arms into position, then tried a pushup. The collarbone actuators were too weak. I had to replace them with stronger ones on the fly, taking the time to design the changes with the proper Perks to the bonuses would stick.

Hours later, I did a pushup, then moved to an Orz position, and planted a foot on the floor. With a heave from the arms, the gyro fought against the movement and I fell on all fours again. I locked the joints in place and went back to the drawing board.

Poor Josselyn had too many issues. First, the real Josselyn was dead. That was a major issue. She had a bullet wound to her head and a gun was lying nearby, so I think she took the "deny the enemy their food" approach and offed herself. Second, My technique wasn't so refined I could do a human-sized puppet on the first try. Third, it had too many moving parts. Eighty buttons were almost an entire keyboard.

I decided to downsize, throw away the human size, and simplify. My new puppet would be the size of a child, with much less mobility, broader legs, more stability, and with integrated armor. If I didn't need to pretend to be human, which I would fail unless I could convince people I was doing the robot dance, then the armor could be the fuselage.

No feet. Hands would only open and close, without independent finger movement except for the thumb. Shoulders wouldn't have the same mobility. Head, the same. More than half the actuators went away. I added extending prongs to the sides to push it back on its feet. Eight of them that would see little use in normal conditions. With only half the height, it weighed five times less after the thicker armor was accounted for. The armor was rounded and egg-shaped in some places for extra resilience. The helmet was thicker with a V-shaped face plate to deflect blows to the sides. I wanted people to think the head mattered when, in fact, I could do without it. If enemies would be so kind as to waste their blows there, I would be very happy.

I added spring-loaded blades to the forearms. Not claws like some angry Canadian superhero but swords. They would deal a lot of damage on pop-out and I had a trigger that would activate with a punch. Actuators retracted the blade and it took five seconds to rearm.

Then I disassembled Josselyn to recycle the components and absorb what I couldn't use for Mana. It was a loss but what else would I do with that pile of metal? I couldn't carry her around.

When I finished the construction, I named my creation before the System could. "Kid Skip."


> Your training and knowledge improved your Implements of Demise Skill to Rank II

> Rank II benefits: When attacking with an unexpected weapon or from ambush, you deal 10% more damage per rank.


> You created a new contraption. Mark II mechanical body, "Kid Sick".

> For this (Very Rare) contraption, you gained 3,908 Experience points.


These aliens have a really bad translator. Scaling down the complexity reduced the rarity by one level and I was now level 19, making it worth less Exp.





I started climbing down the stairs, testing Kid Sick's mobility. One thing I realized was that I needed to develop the skill to control the puppet. Push the buttons in the correct order, right timing, and even with adequate pressure. Josselyn was just too complex to pilot straight out of the dock. This design was much more forgiving and simple to pilot. Only not having a foot joint that needed to be adjusted at every step already helped.

I absorbed more computers and replenished my dilapidated Resources. But as I approached ground level, I noticed a few humans. They were walking down the street, searching for something. Pulses of magic rang out from them.

It stood to reason that they would come after the priceless artifact that was stolen from the auction. What should I do? I couldn't exactly run away from them, I couldn't...

Perhaps I should do nothing. Cut all my Dungeon Mana expenditure and lay low, hoping I could avoid detection. They didn't track me, they tracked my Dungeon and all the Mana invested in the stone. Perhaps it was the same here.

My best bet was to remain immobile. I was on the eighth floor when I sensed them on the street. Kid Sick did a lot of noise when moving, I didn't think to add sound dampeners like rubber soles to the puppet's feet. And I wouldn't do it now. I cut all Mana flows and used only my passives.

The search party kept walking down the street, moving closer to my building. A second group entered my Domain range, a bunch of weird dogs. They had no fur. Instead, their bodies were covered in two-inch-long spines. The pack of spike dogs smelled the people and prowled without making any sound toward the humans.

Their saving grace was the detection pulses. I sensed with my Domain as one of these pulses reflected on the spike dogs.

"We have incoming! Spinehounds!" Their mage alerted.

The group prepared for combat. The frontliners drew their weapons, and the archer nocked some arrows. I noticed none of them had any radio or electronic device, leading credence to what the aliens said.

The opening move was from the archer. As the dogs ran into the street, he put arrows in two of them, firing each arrow in less than two seconds. He didn't stop until the dogs came within ten feet of the warriors.

The dogs shot a hail of spines at the humans but the armored warrior cycled his Mana into the shield and shouted. A wall of magic sprouted from the shield, forming a ninety-degrees band of force ten feet tall. It blocked all the spines but also knocked the wind out of the warrior's sails. The barrier dropped a second later.

Then a ball of fire arched ballistically and landed in the middle of the Spinehounds, blossoming into tongues of fire that singed most of the monsters. It didn't blow up or anything.

Three dogs jumped at the shieldbearer while the other seven spread out and used the debris and rusted cars as cover to reach the other humans and stay out of sight from the archer. One of the humans, probably their rogue, had vanished while I was not paying attention and reappeared on top of a car, jumping down and driving a long and thin dagger into the skull of one dog. The mage started to recite a spell while the second warrior assisted the shieldbearer.

Even with the dogs darting from cover to cover, the archer still killed another two. Rogue vanished again and then reappeared to skewer the heart of another dog. One prowled toward the archer, lying low to keep out of sight while two dogs broke into a mad dash toward the cloth-clad mage. But they took too long. The mage finished his incantation and shot two bolts of lighting at the charging dogs. They still flung a hail of spines in all directions some at the mage in their death throes, leaving their skin almost all bare.

The mage fell down with a scream as he became an inverted porcupine. Even the rogue broke his stealth skill because he was struck. Shouting for help, the archer ran to assist his companion and was ambushed by the last dog, the one that was crawling. The dog jumped on the archer's back and shot a volley of spines up close. The archer fell and the dog landed on top of the man, biting into his throat and ripping it open.


> A Delver died in your Dungeon. You gained 812 Experience Points. You gained 35 Dungeon Mana.


Bloody fucking System. Didn't I shut down all the mana flows? A torrent of mana gushed from the dead archer's body toward me, along with his soul. I could only hope their detection didn't pick this up. But the damn dog did. Its head snapped and stared straight at me, through the building. It probably saved a life or two as it broke off and ran toward me.

The rogue reached the archer and pulled a small test tube from his belt. He poured some red liquid on the archer's neck, causing the flesh to sizzle and steam. He waved the smoke and was dismayed. Nothing happened. Cursing, the rogue then gave the rest of the vial to the mage.

The two warriors joined the group and one of them went to check on the archer. "Damn dog killed him." The warrior spat.

"Jimmy will be fine," Rogue reported after checking on the mage.

"Where did it go?" Shieldbearer asked.

"Ran into a building. It was the first time I saw an Infernali leave dying prey behind," Rogue answered.

"Do you think something is controlling them?"

"No idea. We need to rest. A single Spinehound, especially after devouring a soul, is too much for us."

It seemed the Infernali got a boost of power after eating a soul. Except this one didn't get its meal. I stole it first.

The dog quickly climbed the stairs. I prepared to fight. It came on the floor I was at, growling. I swiveled Kid Sick's head to stare at the beast.

It shot a hail of spines. Most of them pinged harmlessly against my armor, leaving just superficial scratches while some lodged into the joints. When he saw I didn't fall, the dog charged.

I tried to position my forearms to stab the dog but the spines stuck to my joints blocked my movements. They were tough enough that my servos couldn't snap them.

The Spinehound jumped on me and knocked Kid Sick back with a loud clang. It started to bite into the metal neck and I let it for all the good it would do. Instead, I flexed the arm all the way back, causing the spines to fall down and release the elbow joint. I lined up the stab so the blade would pop out between the ribs and go straight for the heart. Then I triggered the springs.


The blade slid between the ribs and severed both the heart and lung. The Spinehound thrashed but that only widened the wound. I pulled hard to the side and the sword ripped open its side, pouring a lot of blood on my chassis.


> For killing level 41 Spinehound, you earned 3,251 Experience Points.

> You gained a level! You gained +8 Intelligence, +4 Wisdom, +7 Will, +5 Clarity, and +7 Hardness. You have 10 Attribute Points.

> You gained the Rapid Growth Perk. Plants inside your Domain grow 100% faster and yield 50% more produce.

> You gained the "Oops, I was in range" Perk: Your own explosions deal 20% less damage to you.


Level 20, hooray! Also, I was heinously under-leveled for this place.

The search party was coming my way now. It was a good time to remember I forgot to add speakers to this damn robot.


About the author


Bio: The author would like to reinforce for the umpteenth time that the characters' opinions are their own, may be intentionally wrong, do not reflect my (MDW's) personal viewpoints neither are included in this work to further any political agenda (I don't even live in the same hemisphere or country as you, whichever those are. I'm writing from the Earth-Sun L3 point for all I care). My works serve no purpose other than to tell stories with conflicting viewpoints. Use of the reader's critical sense is highly advised.

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